If coming to the end of high school feels like you’ve arrived at a crossroads, consider taking a year off. Taking the road less traveled and setting off on a gap year could be your chance to learn, grow and decide what you want to do with your life.
No, it’s not too good to be true – taking a gap year before college might give you the answers you’re looking for.
What is a gap year?
A gap year typically refers to taking a year-long break between school and college. They can take many forms – and the time off could be used to work, travel, or volunteer abroad. Whatever you choose to do on a gap year, it is most useful when seen as a way to explore interests and development opportunities.
If you use the time constructively, a gap year will help you glide between life stages with ease.
The benefits of a gap year
The idea of taking a gap year is a fairly new one, but it’s becoming increasingly popular thanks to the many benefits.
Students who take gap years typically find that the major benefits are a better sense of self, understanding more diverse cultures and gaining skills useful for future study and jobs, according to the Gap Year Association.
The practical experience you get from gap years can boost your resume or college application. Plus, a gap year can be a useful transition from living at home and going to high school, to having to fend for yourself and studying somewhere far from where you grew up. For example, traveling to a developing country as part of a volunteer program will do wonders for your independence and self-reliance.
Your parents might worry that a gap year will bring your grades down. You can reassure them by explaining that a study by Sydney University researchers proved the opposite to be true. The study showed that not only did a gap year increase students’ motivation when they returned to their studies, but that gap year students achieved higher grades than their peers who went straight from school to university.
Gap years can also be instrumental in helping you decide on your major or course of study. They give you the opportunity to get a taster of different career paths to see what suits you and what causes are most important to you.
You might discover a new passion that sets you on a new path altogether or reaffirm the academic choices you had originally planned.
Try your hand at marine conservation, teaching or healthcare. Even if you decide that the area you volunteer in wouldn’t work for you as a career, you’ll walk away from the experience with valuable soft skills and lifelong memories.
Get inspired: Gap year ideas
Deciding what to do during a gap year can involve a lot of “umming” and “ahhing”. Should you get a job and save up some money? Take some time out to work on your passions? Travel the world?
To make the decision easier, you can choose to enroll in a gap year program. A volunteering or internship program abroad can tick multiple boxes at once. You’ll learn new skills, have new experiences and meet new people. Structured programs take the hard work out of planning and guide you through an experience designed to be both challenging and fun.
Don’t let the word ‘structured’ throw you off either. GVI’s gap year programs are flexible and the range of projects means you can choose almost any focus, length, and location.
Gap year volunteering can be as short as two weeks or as long as six months. One of the best reasons to take a gap year is to explore a country and culture different to your own.
That’s easily done. You can choose to volunteer in Africa, Asia, Latin America or Europe. Grab this opportunity with both hands and look at gap year programs outside your comfort zone.
Here are a few gap year volunteer programs you could join:
Intern on an elephant conservation project in Thailand. This project is a crash course on ethical tourism, wildlife protection and the importance of working with local communities to bring about lasting change. Based in the jungles of Northern Thailand, you’ll experience the simple joys of village life.
Volunteer with Buddhist novice monks in Laos. By teaching English to the young monks, you’ll gain insight into how education can open up more job opportunities in developing countries. Plus, you’ll have the chance to develop your own organizational skills as you take on responsibility for lessons. In your free time, you could explore the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang or visit natural wonders like the Mekong River.
Go on a marine conservation expedition in Fiji. While diving in the blue waters of the South Pacific you can help carry out important research that will guide the protection of fragile coral ecosystems. The island location and stunning dives will make you feel like you have escaped to tropical paradise, but this is much more than a beach holiday. You’ll learn new scuba skills, visit schools to teach local children about conservation and bond with a dynamic team of international volunteers.
Choose adventure and volunteer in Nepal. This combined adventure and altruism program gives you the chance to trek to Everest Base Camp and work on community development projects. Working on educational and healthcare projects in magical Nepal is an uplifting experience. The two-week trek to the base of the world’s highest mountain will push you physically and mentally, preparing you for almost any obstacles ahead of you.
If you’re considering a gap year before college, make it count by volunteering with GVI. Browse more gap year programs today.